GUATEMALA CITY (AP) -- A tribunal on Friday found three military men and a priest guilty of the 1998 slaying of Roman Catholic Bishop Juan Gerardi and ordered a criminal probe into three other military officials in the case.
A human rights crusader, Gerardi was bludgeoned to death with a concrete block at his Guatemala City seminary in 1998, two days after he presented a report blaming the military for the overwhelming majority of the 200,000 deaths in Guatemala's 36-year civil war.
The trial was seen as a test of Guatemala's ability to deal with the legacy of a brutal war with leftist guerrillas that ended with a 1996 peace accord. Several witnesses and magistrates had fled the country after receiving death threats.
Human rights leader Helen Mack called Friday's verdict "courageous. This is a strong blow against impunity."
The three-judge tribunal found Col. Disrael Lima Estrada guilty of homicide and sentenced him to 30 years. Prosecutors said the former chief of military intelligence masterminded the killing to keep the bishop from testifying in possible trials over wartime atrocities.
Guilty on the same charges were his son, Capt. Byron Lima Oliva, and Jose Obdulio Villanueva, both former members of the presidential guard. Both were sentenced to 30 years, with Lima given two more on a false documents charge.
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